Article Sep 26, 2016

Top 5 international stories of the week

Every Monday, we bring to you the top five international stories of the week, with a particular emphasis on religious liberty, justice issues, and geopolitical issues that impact liberty and justice.

1. Ceasefire ends in Aleppo, and intense fighting resumes. The fragile ceasefire fell apart late last week, and the Syrian army launched a new major offensive all along the rebel front lines. Earlier in the week, an aid convoy headed to Aleppo was destroyed; American officials have alleged that Russian planes carried out the strike. And in a move that has angered Turkey, President Obama openly considered arming Kurdish forces with small arms.

2. UN General Assembly kicks off in New York City. Last week was a bad one to try to find a hotel room in New York City, leaders and attachés from all over the world descended on New York. The GA’s second day featured public acrimony between several clusters of regional rivals. President Obama also delivered a highly anticipated speech on refugees, in which he argued that the way we treat refugees is “a test of our common humanity.” ERLC’s Matthew Hawkins also argued last week that it is time for honesty in our rhetoric on refugees.

3. Jordan holds parliamentary elections with a rebranded Muslim Brotherhood. Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki, was reappointed after elections that will require PM al-Mulki to form a new coalition government. I flag this article because the Muslim Brotherhood made a return as a political force in Jordan, although entirely rebranded. The Washington Post has an interesting piece discussing the rebrand: “Gone were the green flags emblazoned with crossing swords. Instead, young men waved white banners with the word ‘reform’ written across them. Christians and women took center stage, and Islam was not mentioned once. Many in the crowd swayed to nationalist pop music and Bedouin folk songs. The tone was more reminiscent of a Bernie Sanders rally than of a 90-year-old Islamist movement.”

4. Gazan religious leader pushing to criminalize blasphemy in the Gaza Strip. Khaled al-Khalidi, a professor of Palestinian history at the Islamic University in Gaza, has been publicly calling for for the enactment of an anti-blasphemy law in Gaza. It appears that his motivation is to use the law to settle disputes within the Muslim community: “I will soon form an association of scholars to defend Islam from the erroneous interpretations of some religious scholars.” Al-Khalidi’s push has been met with resistance from within Gazan society; it is unclear how far the push will go. Meanwhile, in elections held in the West Bank, the ruling Fatah party chose not to include the names of women running for the party, identifying the candidates instead using the formulation, “wife of” or “sister of.” The move sparked outrage across the West Bank.

5. Arson attack on Belgian forensics storage facility destroyed cache of evidence to be used in prosecutions of Brussels terror attacks. The facility was Belgium’s primary point of storage for evidence against hundreds of criminal and terrorism suspects. From the New York Times: “The Aug. 29 arson, in which no suspects have been publicly identified, has cast the troubled criminal justice system of this tiny country — the biggest per capita exporter of foreign terrorists in Western Europe — into even deeper turmoil.”

Have suggestions for a top 5 article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at

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